Strange Fruit ft. Milo, SistaStrings, Stomata w/Jordan Lee, Foreign Goods, New Boyz Club, Brit Nicole, Soul Serious, Tarik Moody
The mission of the Strange Fruit project is to inspire change in the community through live performance art and the subsequent creation of lasting media.
Strange Fruit is a music festival that explores the thoughts and emotions of local musicians, regarding the current climate of racial relations both in Milwaukee and the country as a whole.
The idea is in response to back-to-back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Chauntee Ross, of SistaStrings, invited friends to her house to discuss what they, as artists, can do by way of response. It became an impromptu Cooking and Clearing experience, a communal meal where the group not only broke bread as a family unit but joined creative forces. As Jay Anderson helped her sister and musical partner Monique Ross cook the greens, fry the chicken and bake the cornbread, they discussed the importance and responsibility of educating not only their community but neighboring communities as well who have even less of an understanding and true representation of who people of color are.
In a recent interview, Ms. Chauntee Ross spoke from her heart about the project: “It’s long overdue that we should all be getting together and combining our skills and expertise to be agents of change and promote action. I’m not here to tell you exactly what that action will look like. I’m not here to entertain. I’m here to remind our community that we have a responsibility to take care of one another and to make sure that our voices are heard. We recognize that black progressive political victories were won through interracial working-class solidarities. Artists are called upon not to replace politics with entertainment or public-therapy, but to engage in battle with a class-war that has furtively directed our gazes away from our empirical and potential political unity of the laboring classes.”
By the end of the night of cooking, eating and talking together, the initial gathering of friends came to a singular idea. As Mr. Anderson put it, “We can no longer be violent with our bodies or our actions; we are here to be violent with our art. And so we will create a piece of art to immortalize these temporary emotions that we feel about the state of the country.”
The Strange Fruit Music Festival embodies an old idea within the history of social protest. As Leonard Bernstein said in response to the murder of John F. Kennedy, “We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
The festival will run August 12 at Hotel Foster, August 13 at Company Brewing, and August 14 at Cactus Club.